Some carnival barkers and radio chatterers are saying there was some sort of agreement between the Michael Hancock campaign and The Denver Post that went something like this: The Post wouldn’t print the story about his alleged liaisons with prostitutes, if Hancock agreed to turn over his cell phone and bank records to reporters.
I was glad to hear Denver Post reporter Chuck Plunkett, on the Caplis and Silverman Show yesterday, deny that any such agreement existed, because this obviously would have constituted journalism at its worst.
“We made no such commitment,” Plunkett told Caplis and Silverman. “If we could have gotten, for example, through our other research and other journalistic efforts, some kind of third party corroboration, one way or the other, that was unimpeachable, you bet we would have gone to press with it.”
So Plunkett confirmed on the radio that if The Post had a credible story about Hancock prior to the election, they would have rushed to publish it. But, as Plunkett’s big boss Dean Singleton told Caplis and Silverman June 7, no “reputable” news organization would have published a story based on the information they had on hand at the time.
And here’s the strange part. After a series of front page stories in The Post, warmed with hot air out from some local TV stations, the facts of this story haven’t changed much. A piece of paper with Hancock’s misspelled name povided by a pimp, plus his cell phone number and some dates.
That was’t much then or now.
Yet, the story went from unreportable to the front page because, according to Plunkett, Hancock decided not to honor, as Plunkett put it yesterday, a “gentleman’s agreement,” to hand over his unvetted bank and cell-phone records?
On the radio, Plunkett sounded offended that Hancock didn’t turn over all his records, per the gentleman’s agreement, which Hancock’s campaign manager denies making.
But even if the gentleman’s agreement was broken, that doesn’t make this petty story all that big a deal, if you look at the facts on the table. Giving it so much hype, and assigning The Post’s top writers to it, and continuing to do so, is a journalistic embarrassment.
I’m not saying Hancock’s alleged shift in stance regarding the documents wasn’t news. The Post made the right call to air the story, along with the news that Hancock’s laywers asked for police evidence. There’s a little news there. But this might have merited a few paragraphs because the core of the story remains empty.
Going forward, The Post should take a breath and distinguish between significant advances in this story from next-to-meaningless, but titillating, developments.
There could be potential big news here, like real evidence proving Hancock is lying about paying prostitutes, but spare us the hype.